ADBA responds to Environment Agency’s informal consultation on changes to OPRA

At the end of last week, ADBA provided comments to the Environment Agency (EA) in response to their informal consultation on the proposed changes to the OPRA system of assessing operator performance. To see the proposed changes, click here to read our previous blog. The proposals could have significant implications for AD operators who operate under Environmental Permits because they suggest changing how the performance of these operators is assessed.

We are hoping to hear more about this directly from the EA at UK AD & Biogas 2017.

The EA's proposals are at an early stage of development rather than a fully thought-out concept, so there is time and opportunity to help shape them before they are formally consulted on. At this stage it is difficult to comment on the detail and we have mainly focussed on the principles behind the proposed changes.

Our key points of feedback can be summarised as follows:

  • Any changes that will affect how operators are assessed by the regulator and the criteria they are assessed to must be implemented with a sufficient transition period and clear communication, allowing both operators and local EA officers to prepare for the changes.
  • It is not clear how the proposals will be implemented in practice or what form the assessment will take – this must be clarified in order for us to provide full comments.
  • Some of the criteria appear to aim too high (particularly in the ‘Expected’ category which most operators would be expected to fall into) and do not take into account the wide variety of types and sizes of business in the waste industry and their differing level of resources. On the whole, there appears to be a one-size-fits-all approach, which may be inappropriate and difficult to implement.
  • Currently, some of the proposed criteria seem open to subjectivity.
  • The proposals reflect a more wide-ranging and holistic approach to assessing operator performance, including taking into account compliance with regimes administered by other regulatory organisations. Where the criteria go beyond the remit of the EA it is not clear how the EA would assess this and depending on the final proposals, it may arguably be inappropriate on principle to include these as part of a performance assessment being undertaken by the EA.

In our response, we emphasised the importance of close engagement with industry on the development and implementation of these proposals, and reiterated the potential role of industry schemes (for example the Best Practice Scheme for AD) in helping the EA to deliver the proposals. The Best Practice Scheme covers many similar aspects but is an industry-led project and will therefore be tailored to the AD industry. ADBA will be discussing the BPS with the EA in the coming weeks.

It is not yet clear how high-performing operators will be rewarded but we understand the EA are currently considering how to incentivise improvement in performance and will be looking for industry feedback.

To see our full comments, please click here.

We will keep members updated with any developments relating to the proposals and we have invited the EA to present on this topic at UK AD & Biogas 2017. If you have any views or comments, please do share them with us by emailing me at

Posted in: News for Members, Policy updates

Tags: anaerobic digestion, biogas, food waste operators, Environment Agency, environmental permitting, opra, operator performance assessment, waste regulation